The two hands of Spirit
Rembrandt’s very famous painting of the return of the prodigal is a profound visual expression of Jesus’ parable. “Filled with compassion he ran, put his arms around him and kissed him.” Lk 15:20
The word translated as compassion comes from the word for bowels or guts and indicates a stirring of one’s deepest feelings. Compassion in this sense is a kind of fierce womb-like love. Rembrandt painted the qualities of Divine paternity and maternity into the hands of the Father embracing his son. The left hand of the father is a thick masculine hand and the right is a finer feminine hand.
In God Justice, perhaps the more distant or masculine principle is happily married with the more intimate feminine principle of mercy. God embodies the justice that challenges us into life and the mercy that completes our deepest hunger for love. The Nicene Creed says that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. The Apostles Creed uses the same words to describe Jesus as born of the Virgin Mary. Here we can see that God is a Father that gives birth, a Father with womb-like love.
Divine Transcendence can make us feel the distance between us and God. This sense of distance can make a call to consecrated life or priesthood intimidating: “who am I to approach a vocation of such dependence on God…” But Divine immanence or indwelling makes God’s relatedness intimate and personal. There is no part of our life that God’s presence does not embrace. Lets think of the masculine and the feminine as the two hands of Spirit embracing our world struggling to be born.
By spending quality time in the deep, rich womb-like love of God we become less self-conscious and self-absorbed. We identify far more easily with God’s priorities and we get busy with the work that most needs doing for his kingdom. Thus mercy moves us into real action or justice in the world.
The good news is that we don’t have to go to a distant country and lose everything in order to come to our true selves. We can do so right now wherever we are. Those hands are embracing us at all times.
By Mark Blom, OMI – Vocation Director OMI Lacombe Canada
Feel free to contact Fr. Mark for advice about discernment and vocation direction. He can meet with you by phone to conduct a short vocation assessment to help you find your way. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an appointment